Review

MSR PocketRocket Deluxe

MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove

MSR was kind enough to send their new PocketRocket Deluxe just in time for a backpacking trip across the Grand Canyon.

I'd been planning on replacing my aging Jetboil Sol-Ti, so the PocketRocket's arrival was serendipitous. The 'Deluxe' is a February 2019 update to MSR's popular PocketRocket stove. Key additions include a pressure regulator for improved performance in cold temperatures, an auto-igniter, and a larger, redesigned burner head to improve simmer performance and resistance to wind.

MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove at Grand Canyon's Cottonwood Camp

Wind is the bane of traditional canister stoves—a big reason why I (and so many others) have switched to Jetboil's integrated systems. That said, there are advantages to using stand-alone burner heads.

They're lighter, more versatile (allowing you to use a wider range of pots and pans), and ... they're lighter. OK, maybe that's not the most overwhelming list of perks. I admit, taking the PocketRocket instead of a Jetboil did feel a little funny at first. Was there a compelling reason to use a non-integrated stove circa 2019? I wasn't so sure. But, I figured, that was a question worth answering.

So off the PocketRocket Deluxe and I went for three nights and 21 miles in the Canyon. And wouldn't you know it: it was windy.

The first thing you notice about the PocketRocket is that it's tiny—a very light 2.9 ounces. This on its own is a very compelling quality, but don't forget you have to add a cook pot. Depending on your preferred level of minimalism, you can get something as light as the Toaks 650, which adds a mere 2.8 ounces including lid, for a system total (fuel excluded) of 5.7 ounces.

My kit included MSR's 1.2L Trail Mini cook pot, which weighs 9.9 ounces including handle and lid, for a total system weight of 12.8 ounces.

In use, I found the PocketRocket Deluxe lit reliably using its Piezo igniter; I didn't have to use my Bic lighter even once, including in wind. The ultralight purist in me says if I've got a stove I'm carrying a lighter, so ditch the igniter and save me a few grams. But I did enjoy the ease of the Deluxe's push-button ignition.

Simmer quality and raw output are quite good. Heck, in terms of flame control this is easily one of the finest canister stove I've ever used, integrated systems included. And remember, the Deluxe's built-in pressure regulation helps ensure consistent output in a variety of conditions (ie, mountains!) that would challenge more basic stove designs.

I also loved—yes loved!—using the larger MSR pot when it came to not just boiling water but actually cooking. Yes, you can cook noodles in a Jetboil's tall, narrow pot, but there is a certain je ne se quoi when it comes to preparing food in a traditionally-proportioned pot.

But we must of course talk about the wind. Cooking in wind is a drag regardless of what stove you're using, and I do not by any means want to imply that integrated systems are magically immune to wind—they're not. But they are better.

On our windy night in the Canyon, I set up the PocketRocket side-by-side with my brother's Jetboil in an unprotected location and started dinner. The PocketRocket compared poorly in both boil times and fuel consumption. While the PocketRocket did successfully boil water in a stiff wind, it absolutely chewed through fuel doing it.

Often—though not always—it's possible to cook in more protected locations. You can also attempt to shield your canister stove in various ways, though there are hazards in doing so, especially if you inadvertently reflect heat back at your fuel can, potentially turning it into a propane-filled bomb.

So wind remains an issue—though perhaps mostly as an efficiency concern. So long as you can boil water, and I could, you are still coming out ahead in terms of system weight provided you don't have to carry extra fuel cans. That said, on a more subjective note, I did find myself envying the Jetboil's faster boil times and its overall simplicity and ease of use.

With that in mind, I have some recommendations for you:

If you just want to boil water in the backcountry and you're not picky about a few ounces, get the Jetboil. You'll be happier overall. If however you specifically prefer to use a stand-alone canister stove, either for weight savings or for cooking flexibility, the PocketRocket Deluxe is clearly among the best in its class.

That large burner head plus the pressure regulator are a must-have combination, making the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe an easy pick.

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.